Determined to speak for themselves, a dozen immigrant spouses from Southeast Asia living in Taiwan yesterday publicized a documentary they produced themselves detailing not only their lives in Taiwan, but also how they have struggled against discrimination in their new homeland.
The documentary, entitled Don’t Be Afraid (姊妹，賣冬瓜), focuses on the lives of four immigrant spouses from Southeast Asia in Taiwan, showing them learning to read Chinese, learning to speak Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) by singing Hoklo songs with their mothers-in-law, helping other immigrant spouses and taking care of their children.
In fact, the documentary is a testament to how well these women have done in Taiwan, as they made it themselves — including writing the script, filming, editing and post-production.
The Chinese title of the film, Jiemei, Mai Donggua — literarily Sisters Selling Wintermelons — may initially seem irrelevant to the central theme of the documentary, but it is actually a witty play on words, as the phrase “don’t be afraid” in Thai sounds just like “Mai Donggua” in Mandarin.
“Because of cultural differences, many people [in Taiwan] think that we immigrants are incapable of doing anything. They think we’re incapable of working and incapable of teaching our kids — they think we came to Taiwan because we are from poor countries and wanted to make money here,” Yadrung Chiou (邱雅青), executive secretary of the Trans-Asia Sisterhood Association Taiwan (TASAT), who is originally from Thailand, told a news conference in Taipei yesterday. “But it’s not true at all,” she said.
Chiou said that, from not knowing any Chinese characters when she first moved to Taiwan more than a decade ago, she now speaks Mandarin and Hoklo, is well informed about the government’s immigration policies and has played an active role in civic movements in the country.
“Before, it was always other people making movies and documentaries about us [immigrants]. This time, we’re the ones making the movie ourselves because we want to show our stories from our own point of view and show everyone the power of immigrants,” she said.
TASAT chairwoman Phayao Su (舒潘瑤), who also originally came from Thailand, echoed Chiou.
“We live in Taiwan because we want to live here. We have our children here, and we’re working hard not because we want to make big money for ourselves, but for our children,” Su said. “I’ve cried before because people discriminate against us, but my tears today are because I am so very touched by the film.”
The documentary will premiere tomorrow at 6pm, followed by a discussion at Spot Taipei Film House at 18, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 2 in Taipei City.
After the premiere, the film will tour the country organizers said, though the final schedule has yet to be announced.